Soccer-Palmer struggling to face Arsenal, says Chelsea's Pochettino

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup - Semi Final - Manchester City v Chelsea - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - April 20, 2024 Chelsea's Cole Palmer looks dejected after the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) -Chelsea could be without top scorer Cole Palmer for Tuesday's clash away at Premier League leaders Arsenal with the forward struggling to recover from illness, manager Mauricio Pochettino said on Monday.

"Today, no (he cannot play)," Pochettino told a press conference. "We will see tomorrow morning. Today, I don't believe he can be involved.

"Even if he is good tomorrow, maybe he is not in a condition to play. We hope he can recover from this situation and be involved with the team."

The 21-year-old, who played in Saturday's 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester City, has been the shining light of a difficult first season for Pochettino at Stamford Bridge.

Former City player Palmer is the joint-top scorer in the Premier League this season with 20 goals, the same as City's Norwegian striker Erling Haaland.

His absence would be a blow for Chelsea as they try to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for Europe. It would also be a considerable boost for Arsenal in their quest to win the title for the first time in 20 years.

Defenders Malo Gusto and Ben Chilwell are also doubtful for the derby, according to Pochettino.

Chelsea are in ninth place in the league with 47 points from 31 matches, three points behind seventh-placed Manchester United but with one game in hand.

Qualifying for Europe would be some consolation for Chelsea and having also reached the League Cup final it would represent progress of sorts for Pochettino.

But he said the target is to close the gap to Arsenal.

"We are confident in one day getting the same level, of course," the Argentine said. "We are positive and always in football the most important thing is to believe.

"Arsenal a few years ago, they were in a different situation than today. But in time, with confidence and trust in him (Mikel Arteta), they are there. Here, it is not a different thing."

Chelsea drew 2-2 at home to Arsenal earlier in the season, having led 2-0, but Pochettino said the circumstances were a little different this time as the season draws to a climax.

"Now is the end of the season, they are playing for the Premier League. We need the three points to be in another position in the table," he said.

"We are two or three games behind all of the teams above us and it is important to try and win games like this to be close to European competition next season."

Seventh spot could seal a place in Europe depending on other results.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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